Bike shops participating in the government’s Fix Your Bike voucher scheme, which opened to the public in late July and provides a voucher worth £50 to help get neglected bikes back on the road, are reportedly encountering problems in being refunded money for work they have carried out, with one bicycle repair shop saying that the way the scheme operates is “a nightmare.”
Under the terms and conditions of the scheme for participating repairers, issued in June, the Energy Saving Trust (EST), which administers the initiative on behalf of the Department for Transport (DfT), says it will download claims weekly, “with payment made within 5 working days of download (+ 3 to 5 working days for BACS).”
However, Cycling Industry News reports that some bike shops are expressing their frustration at the time it is taking for them to receive money, with concerns raised both on its own closed Facebook group, as well as on private cycle industry-focused groups on the social media platform.
The trade website says that delays of more than a fortnight to be paid are being experienced, with Barry Redman of the social enterprise MerseyCycle, based in Huyton, Liverpool, saying: “It’ll be three weeks on Wednesday and I’ve been waiting for a reply for 5 days to my email.”
Responses to a poll by Cycling Industry News found that payments had either been made outside the timeframe, or had not yet been made at all.
One bike repair shop in Cheshire told Cycling Industry News: “We’ve had 19 vouchers through our doors, I’ve redeemed 17 of them as were waiting for parts for the remaining two bikes.
“The first voucher redeemed was on August 3rd, 2020 and I’ve been redeeming them daily since then. I have received no payment as yet from The Energy Saving Trust despite promises of payments between 5-12 days after redemption.
“Due to the freeze on releasing more vouchers we have now got customers cancelling bookings as they want, and need, to have a voucher to be able to afford the relevant repairs.
“This is a nightmare as we are really busy so it’s very frustrating to have slots booked and cancelled due to no vouchers being available and absolutely no indication of when they can be applied for again.
“The voucher scheme is a great thing, but the logistics of it is letting customers and repairers down.”
The scheme, which operates solely in England – a separate scheme in Scotland is administered by Cycling UK on behalf of the Scottish Government – was first announced by transport secretary Grant Shapps in early May.
He said that 500,000 vouchers would be made available, at a cost to the government of £25 million, as people were encouraged to switch to active travel for daily journeys to ease pressure on public transport as well as not using cars to avoid gridlock on the roads.
Initially, the scheme had been due to go public by the end of June, but by the time the first tranche of 50,000 vouchers were released four weeks later – initially causing the website to crash – levels of motorised traffic were already returning to pre-lockdown levels.
One London bicycle repair shop told road.cc at the weekend that they had decided against participating in the scheme in part due to the bureaucracy involved in processing the vouchers, and also because they felt that the initiative had been launched to the public too late.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.